"Athletes are also human beings" | sports

"Athletes are also human beings" | sports


Vicente del Bosque (68 years old on Christmas Eve, Salamanca, as Agustín Tamames, the winner of the Vuelta del 75 and his girlfriend of Macotera), sits down to talk with Alberto Contador (the climber of the two Tours, the two Twists , the three Vueltas) and it is how it would suddenly have rejuvenated more than 50 years. Del Bosque, the World Cup and European Championship coach, is once again the young footballer fascinated by a sport of sweat and sacrifice and, above all, passion, heroes who, alone, challenge the mountains and the imagination of those who see them there, on impossible slopes, from the sofa of his house taking a vintage white wine and some slices of chorizo.

Vicente del Bosque. My passion since childhood has been cycling, especially the Tour. I'm not saying that the other races are not important, but the Tour is something that has fascinated me for many years.

Alberto counter. Of course, the Tour is like the World Cup, in a way it is what everyone sees, especially the mountain stages …

VDB. Yes, but well, I've been so faithful that even those stages that are supposed to be flat, transitional, I've swallowed them whole. And the last years also those of the Vuelta a España, which have a great attraction.

AC. Yes, it is being much more disputed, more fought, with more attacks, even more than the Tour itself.

VDB. I, in Salamanca, when I had vacations, my mother used to put me a wine, which was a white wine, like that, a little old, and a bit of chorizo, sausage and that …

AC. Jo …

VDB. And I spent whole stages, absolutely whole. I have always loved it, and, in addition, I believe that you are one of the heroes of Spanish sport in recent years. Everyone has a great admiration for you, without any doubt. I think about it, and do an average of 50 kilometers per hour … that's milk, milk.

AC. Ha, ha, ha … What happens is that, well, you prepare by and for … and that speed is the consequence.

VDB. Yes, yes, but the merit … It is said, is that they have to go up, and you go up a few, but all those who go in the peloton at the end have to take out the average …

AC. It's a sacrificed sport, yes, but any professional sport is sacrificed. Some are more physical than others, but, in the end, they are all.

VDB. Do you miss the competition?

AC. Sometimes. There have been moments that I have missed a tad less, but perhaps I had the psychological help of having fired with a victory in the Angliru. And you think that two years before or two years later this has to end.

VDB. Better to finish successfully …

AC. Of course, in the end you always have the memory of the last competition, right? And to have been that way … And to be commenting with Eurosport allows me to make the competition worm spend a little better.

VDB. But you will not miss the concentrations …

AC. Well, look, what I miss most are the concentrations. It's funny because for my teammates it was an ordeal to be away from home, but for me, the rallies were to be ready and well prepared for the competition …

VDB. But are not they very long?

AC. Yes, up to three weeks, and, yes, they were a bit long, but as you knew it was so that all the pressure and tension served to prepare you better … And, besides, all you did was ride a bike and rest … Yes, I miss them a little. Yes Yes…

Alberto Contador and Vicente del Bosque, at the headquarters of EL PAÍS.
Alberto Contador and Vicente del Bosque, at the headquarters of EL PAÍS.

VDB. It's good not to have a lot of nostalgia, because in the end you realize that at some point you have to retire.

AC. Is that. When I decided it, I had contracts, and very interesting, on the table, but, on the other hand, I was clear that I wanted to leave it with a good taste in my mouth and at the highest level. It's difficult, but as you know it's a profession that you're going to be up to 65, it's a kind of bad drink that you have to go through or before or after, well …

VDB. Cycling is a sport that allows to be long-lived … As it is based on resistance, even the older, the better. You lose speed, I say, as a footballer …

AC. Yes … I lost speed and also, sometimes, I saw the danger more, I thought more, and, perhaps also, the capacity for recovery costs a tad more than when I was young.

VDB. And with the passage of time you take more trade, and often it is fundamental.

AC. The experience, yes. You see things that work great to you that at first you did not do them because you did not know …

VDB. The image of Valverde's world championship … How they stand it! And that is by trade, I say …

AC. It's that Alejandro has a tremendous class. It was impressive, fuaaa, and a victory that he deserved for many years …

VDB. It was exciting, it was exciting …

AC. It was exciting because in the end the whole peloton, the whole bunch, knew that they deserved to have a World Cup already. There could not be a better runner to win it.

VDB. How are the relationships of the leaders with those you have below, with your teammates?

AC. The relationship is the leader's relationship, but you, as leader, leader, surely as you did, you have to win the affection and affection of all ….

VDB. They are human beings, too …

AC. That is, that is. Athletes are not gods. Cycling is a sport in which only one wins, but in which without a team you do absolutely nothing. You have to try to make friends with them, know them, know about their family …

"I think you are one of the heroes of Spanish sport"

VICENTE DEL BOSQUE

VDB. I totally believe in that.

AC. It is a matter of believing in people. Regardless of the country they are all, they all have contracts …

VDB. You have run a lot in foreign teams …

AC. Yes, I started in Spain, in the ONCE, then Liberty, but then I went out, first to the Discovery Channel, American, then Astana, Kazakh, Saxo Bank, Danish, then to Tinkoff, Russian, and I ended up in America again, in Trek. ..

VDB. What is good, in short, is that you have the appreciation of all and that is a shared leadership, affable, cordial, uncle, you can not be all day pissed …

AC. In addition, you have to try to win over your friends from friendship and from humane treatment, with small details such as knowing their family problems, the name of their wife, their children, school … These things, which are small details in the winter, when the month of July arrives and they have to leave their skin for you make the difference …

VDB. And your relationship with the coach or the director?

AC. It has to be to talk every day, and, in addition, there must be feeling. If there is not, when you speak it seems that one is giving you the rod all the time. It has to be friendly and, in my case, a corridor of great experience, of demand: to see what you contribute, what I contribute, we make a mix and we work in that way.

VDB. The director of a team will have to assemble the sports part, which is the most important thing, with the part, let's say, commercial, of selling the product of your …

AC. And with the director, I in my case, always tried to have a talk before the rally we did on the bus before each stage to see what the tactics would be, and he did it so I would not contradict him at the rally or he would contradict me me, and go all in the same direction.

VDB. Because you, as the leader of the ranks, could you decide tactics on the bus?

AC. Yes, yes, yes … Also …

VDB. But you would go coordinated with the director …

AC. Of course, we coordinated because if the director makes a tactic and I see that it is a wrong tactic, it is that I can not say it, I have to say … That's why we talked and even if I saw that I was giving something wrong, I spoke with him later so as not to contradict him in front of everyone … But, yes, the leader has to speak, the leader has to motivate them … Paris-Nice is a career that I liked a lot and, to give you an example, the last day in 2017 I I was very few seconds away from getting the jersey … It was very complicated, but in my talk before the last stage, I said, look, guys, today we are facing a stage that can be remembered in history, we have to try 1all be on our site, do everything we have to do and we can win this Paris-Nice that people do not think … And at the starting line they were eager to run, and motivated to try something big. And in the end, after a tremendous show, we were two seconds away from winning …

Alberto Contador, in the Vuelta a España of 2017.
Alberto Contador, in the Vuelta a España of 2017. Getty

VDB. The important thing is, and it happens in football too … The coach seems to be on a platform as if he knew everything, everything, but the inspiration of the players, in this case yours or others, very important, is very important But a good, healthy inspiration …

AC. That's…

VDB. Not to be told, mister, I do not think we have to play a 4-4-2, we have to do a 4-3-3, and so-and-so does not have to play … No, that's not an inspiration, that's another thing.

AC. We must motivate them, give them hope, feel part of them, give them the value they deserve with each result. Fortunately, many neglect these little details, then, if you make it the difference.

VDB. Did you have innate conditions since childhood?

AC. The truth is that yes, I have to say yes. I started late, at age 15, and bouncing, because I had already done other sports … But I have to say yes especially for now. Now, retired, I go out more or less three days a week, but with that alone, I have a level … I get some numbers of power, of watts, that there are people that are active that do not take them out … And with three days … Logically, if it is five hours of racing or six, not training, I do not arrive, but, of course, even if you have innate qualities, you have to work more than anyone every day …

VDB. With 15 years? And, before, have you played football for example?

AC. Yes, yes, to see, and bad was not. I started in the school team and as my team excelled in the school league, I signed a slightly larger team, Pinto, also, already federated. I played on the right side and also on the front … Menudo mix.

VDB. That is, you ran the band.

AC. Yes. But there was one thing that I did not like in that category, … We are four brothers. The little one has special needs, he has cerebral palsy and my parents were always very busy with him, and they could not afford to go see me play football on weekends. And what happens? Well, the father who was going to see his son, as they would not take him … Result: Alberto, to the bench … If the other's father came or did not come, I already knew whether he played or not.

"I played football as a child, from side and end, and bad was not"

ALBERTO COUNTER

VDB. Alberto, that's going to be very difficult to change it.

AC. To me, that disappointed me. You saw that they told you that you played better, but they put the other one, and you spent the morning of Saturday or Sunday on the bench … And that … On the other hand, with the bicycle it was different …

VDB. But, look, in football, the parents and, now, the grandparents, who are the ones who go, is an impossible spirit of protection. That will always happen, for a lot of didactic campaign that is done … Parents are parents …

AC. I, the advice I give to parents, is that the only thing that matters is that their children enjoy. Tell them to do whatever they want. If they want to train, to train, and if not, not to force them, because they will have their days numbered …

VDB. The illness of your little brother …

AC. Cerebral palsy … It's like I'm a three-month-old baby. He's born. He's 31 years old …

VDB. It is the axis of the family …

AC. It is the center of union … For us it has been something tremendous. It's funny, and my mother often said it, a brother is a reference and admired worldwide in one aspect, and another is dependent 24 hours.

VDB. But surely it will make you all better, for sure …

AC. Yes, yes, it makes you mature before your time, it makes you aware of many things, but it has been the center of union. You have to manage your time based also on him, on his needs …

VDB. And he, when he sees you on television and that …

AC. No, he does not recognize me, he does not recognize me … I now have a boy of eight months and he does many more things than my brother does when he was 31 … No, he does not recognize me …

VDB. You give a hug from me … When you were a kid, who was your reference? When I started football I already had an idea, and I saw a player from the Unión Deportiva Salamanca down the street and I kept looking at him, admired, with his eyes wide open, and he was from the Union … it was not a big team There was no television now, with football at all hours.

AC. For me, the reference was my older brother. All of us who have had an older brother have it a bit like idolatry, right? He started with the bicycle and I started with him, and he who paid a little more money could afford to buy the five Tour de Indurain in the videos of VHS that he had, and he saw them, and I saw them with him . Little by little I began to see the bike, and then to continue. Pantani was already current and Armstrong's domain began. These two were the ones that most impressed me. Those who lived live. Pantani, in fact, by his way of running, has influenced my way of running. For me it has always been a reference … I remember the first time I met Armstrong, in a Dauphiné Libéré, with my English, I introduced myself to him, hello, I'm Alberto Contador, a pleasure to meet you [2005: Contador, 22 años; Armstrong, 34, ya había ganado seis Tours]. And Armstrong already knew me … 'Yes, yes, I've had little time to sign up this year …' There was once an admiration, a respect, tremendous. One passed by your side and you were about to fall almost to let him pass.

VDB. Then they would do it with you, that respect, the ones that arrived …

AC. Yes, but less and less. Over the years, it changes. It's curious…

VDB. That should not be missed. They are timeless things, respect, admiration …

AC. Still, to see, and being retired I see, kids who are being world champions in lower categories and when they do an interview you see that they have idolized … But there are others, I do not know if it is by team orders , or whatever it is, that you see that has changed. It's a shame, you lose a charm.

VDB. You told me Pantani … You and he are cyclists of impulse, that if the body tells you that it can not stand you do not think about the remaining kilometers and you attack … And maybe it is irrational. If you were rational you would say, calm, we must wait for the moment, when the legs … You have been impulse runners.

AC. Yes Yes Yes. That is something that is carried inside. Two days ago I was in the concentration of the team of my foundation, the Alberto Contador Foundation, and they were going to do two races, one on the flat and the other on the rise. I thought I'd take the trowel to be cooler in the climb and try to tighten them … I start behind the trowel, I start behind, like that, like this … And in the end I won the race in the flat. It is that he gave me, I started to attack, and one thing with another …

"The coach gets on a stage as if he knew everything"

VICENTE DEL BOSQUE

VDB. But you have defended well in plain, right? And in the time trial …

AC. Yes Yes Yes. I knew that to win my dreams, especially the Tour, I needed to ride hard against the clock. I worked a lot knowing that you had to have a climber-time trial combination. In plain I have also had very good numbers. But there are fewer and fewer differences with specialists. The teams force you to be concentrated, to go to the wind tunnel, to test materials … Before, that depended more on the runner. The one who was very professional, improved, and the one who did not, stayed at home and complained about not winning, but did not think about why it was. Now the team would not let him … I've worked hard, a millimeter.

VDB. I have always thought that my profession has not meant any sacrifice, I can not say, fuck, I have deprived myself of this, I have deprived myself of the other … I have always done what I liked, it has not been a sacrifice.

AC. In the end it is your passion. You enjoy it, and you are concentrated 20 days in a room of a hotel, 20 square meters, and you feel lucky to be doing that … Although, yes, in recent years the issue of food was brutal, was, It was slavery, slavery … And he got over it by telling me, Alberto, if you're here it's to do things 100 percent, to do them at 80 you go home. If you do them at 100 you will have consistent results … You think that when you retire you can do what you can not do then and that is allowing me to taste every little thing, every little wine, every moment, things you could not do before … In that meaning, it comes to us well.

VDB. What team are you from, football?

AC. I am from Madrid, my father … When I was 15 years old, I went down to the bar to watch the game at Plus and I went with him because he invited me to a Coke and watched the football game with him. ..

VDB. Does the Foundation care much for you or do you have it just to say, I put my name …?

AC. No, no, no … We are very involved, number of trips, conferences … We have two different parts. One is stroke, disseminate and people know what are the symptoms of a possible stroke, the leading cause of death in men and the second in women. And the aftermath, if not. It is essential to go to the hospital in the second one if you notice strange things, tingling, a little paralyzed mouth … Because I suffered one in 2004 …

VDB. Oh yeah?

AC. It was in full Vuelta a Asturias … Look, here on my forehead I have a titanium plate and here, although I have longer hair and you do not see the scar, I have a zipper, a headband from side to side, from when I They opened, and it was because I had a brain cavernoma, a bleeding. I had some terrible headaches but I said, if I am athletes, what will happen to me …

VDB. A migraine …

AC. Sure, I took a paracetamol, but I did not do anything and I said I had to run to be prepared for the Tour, I wanted to debut, my dream with 22 years. In the end, the bleeding was so great that in the Vuelta a Asturias I lost consciousness and I started to convulse. Fortunately, I was in competition and had an ambulance behind. I did not do anything in the fall and they could stabilize me …

VDB. And has not he left you any sequels?

"The leader has to talk, the leader has to motivate everyone"

ALBERTO COUNTER

AC. No. Fortunately my case was in the right central lobe, and they said it could affect smell, character and hearing. The smell and the ear have not affected me, the character … sometimes I use it as an excuse …

VDB. Heh, heh, heh, heh …

AC. And then we have the bike part in the foundation. Schools until cadets, up to 14 years old, where the kids are educated in the bike, cycling values, companionship, team, overcoming, sacrifice … Then, bikes for life, where next to the Pinto disabled center we repair the bikes donated by the people who have forgotten them in the storage rooms and, through Seur and the Skoda Foundation, we send them to Moroccan villages so that children can go to school or by water … Bikes for life, bikes that live a second life … And then, we have competition teams, from juveniles, who are required to send us the notes of the school, because at those ages the bicycle is compatible with studies …

VDB. Are you and your brother?

AC. And there is Ivan Basso, the winner of two Turns and several podiums in the Tour. And the sub and one continental team, the third division of professionals. And we work hard to get a sponsor that allows us to make the leap to the Champions, the WorldTour. We work with passion to return to cycling everything that cycling has given us.

VDB. I imagine you, Alberto, when you were a kid, all day riding a bike, dominating it, doing filigree … Because that's like dominating a ball, that you're giving it all day with the left, with the right, with the thigh, with the knee, with the head, to see how many touches … I remember that when I passed the second baccalaureate [12 años] My parents bought me a bike, and I remember the price perfectly, it was a semi-truck … And I had a good driving. I imagine you in the streets of the town …

AC. I learned to ride in the square, where all the children went down to play. The Kings brought me motorcycles that were large, like those of GP, but with pedals and rollers. I was 10 years old or so. He made circular turns around the square and rode with a friend behind. At the end a wheel was worn to always give the curve in the same direction and El Hierro broke. And spinning in the opposite direction, I broke the other and so I learned. Then at 12, the Kings brought me a mountain bike … Well, well, well … It gave me a feeling of tremendous freedom, but only until it was stolen, what disgust, what disgust … A summer one He told me that he gave me 1,000 pesetas for distributing some letters. Thousand pesetas, imagine. I started distributing them and once I entered a portal and left the bike at the door, it would only be a moment, I said to myself, and when I leave I see that the bike is leaving … My mother … I ran away and can not reach you . The only bike that I have been robbed in my life. What annoying, a weeping, a weeping …

VDB. Well, very good. Charmed…

AC. Also, be with the history of Spanish sport, like you …

VDB. There we walk. I have dedicated myself to a sport that has also been my passion. I've had a great time since childhood until now, and I've always been very lucky, and I did not have great conditions to play football either …



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